Love in the Time of COVID

We’re talking about staffing, so what’s love got to do with it?

By Wendy Hatch, CFRE, Vice President and JoAnn Yoshimoto, CFRE, Senior Consultant

In the time of COVID, in the midst of so much change and uncertainty, let’s imagine that you’re faced with staff turnover in the development department. What shall we do? What will tomorrow look like? How can we predict the best possible course of action?

Now let’s imagine that we can apply the language of love to staffing. After all, at its best, permanent staffing can – perhaps hyperbolically – be described as everlasting, a deep attachment and a long-term commitment. Is it possible that the answer to your staffing dilemma during these uncertain times might look different than usual? Rather than long-term, could the answer be finite, short-term, time-limited and focused?

Could your need for love in the time of COVID, be answered through an interim Chief Development Officer or Development Director?

Consider these five major benefits of interim staffing:

#1 You Complete Me: Minimize the Negative Effects of Vacancy and Transition

There’s never a good time for unplanned staff vacancy. Whether through unforeseen illness, moving on to a better opportunity, or even abrupt termination, a staff vacancy creates stress on the remaining team to pitch in and cover responsibilities, or even make the difficult decision to forego certain priority fundraising activities for lack of person power. The process of posting the position, interviewing, hiring and orienting a new employee can seem daunting, if not downright insurmountable in the midst of an already-busy fundraising year.

A fundraising professional who specializes in interim staffing has a special skillset. This is a seasoned and experienced individual who can step into any situation and quickly become effective, someone who thrives on uncertainty and ambiguity.

At its most basic level, interim staffing provides stability in times of uncertainty and transition. It can keep your fundraising program moving forward and buy you time for a deliberate hiring process for a permanent replacement. This takes the pressure off the leadership team, and can actually turn a perceived challenge into a golden opportunity.

#2 Bridge of Love: Use the Opportunity for Growth

With the interim staff leader in place and fundraising activities humming along, you now have the opportunity to reflect, observe, assess, and make sound decisions and plans for moving forward.

A change in team dynamics, with a new temporary leader in place, can allow staff to discover new ways to collaborate, engage and work together. This person can empower the group to explore new solutions, inspire creativity and help build a stronger team. Under an interim leader, you can try new approaches and expand your fundraising repertoire. You can consider all of this now, and the benefits can serve as a bridge to the future.

#3 Love is Blind: Assess with Fresh and Experienced Eyes

An interim staff leader is in the unique position to bring an outside perspective to your fundraising operations. Depending on the length of engagement and level of professional expertise, an interim leader may conduct a formal or informal fundraising assessment.

This fresh perspective need not be a closely held secret. Rather, it can be a topic of conversation with other staff if approached tactfully and respectfully. For example:

  • I see you’re going to be really busy at the end of the year with direct mail, the gala event and the board campaign. Has the board campaign always taken place in December?

The interim leader can then suggest tweaks to the fundraising calendar, or new approaches, without being limited by the idea that “this is how we’ve always done it.” At minimum, interim staff can provide objective advice on the current situation, reframe and reconsider needs, and identify areas of inefficiency and opportunity.

#4 Love Happens: Be an Agent of Change

There are times when an interim staff person is employed in a highly strategic manner, specifically to bring about significant change before a permanent staff leader is hired. Examples might include reconfiguration of a fundraising office and reassignment of staff roles. This could give the organization an opportunity to break out of unproductive modes and implement influential changes.

This type of strategic change is employed to build strong groundwork from which a new executive director, fundraising director and/or staff can operate. The interim staff person is empowered to adjust/align the organization in preparation for permanent leadership. This model of interim staffing trains and prepares the staff team, so that they and the permanent director are ready to hit the ground running.

#5 Love Language: Help Define Leadership Needs

At its highest level, an interim staff leader can help an organization define the true scope, greatest opportunities and unique requirements of the position. The interim professional can help the board or executive leadership identify those who “speak the same language” and ultimately find the right person for the permanent position.


Change Is the Only Constant

One day, the uncertainty and disruption of COVID will pass. But if history is any indication, at some point in the future we will encounter other triggers for change, transition and disruption to our business as usual. Staff transition certainly will happen, and we should continually be looking for ways to optimize, streamline, and maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Consider the many benefits afforded by interim staffing and if/when this opportunity may be right for your organization.

Click here for more information about Alford Group’s interim staffing services.